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Jerry Ballgame weighs in on the Patriots wins against the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans.

I had started on a very witty, insightful, essentially positive reaction to the Patriots come from behind OT victory over the Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos, when I checked the ESPN app on my iPhone and realized the New England was losing to Houston 31-28, in the fourth quarter. As I was trying to decide how I might adjust or rephrase my article, I checked again and observed that Stephen Gostkowski had hit from 53 yards out to tie the score at 31-31. My God! We’re in a shootout with the Houston Texans! The same Texans team that has gone 4-13 (including 9 losses in a row) since the Pats pounded them last season, and has been having trouble scoring in double digits. Seriously? (OK, so now it’s Pats 34-31) So, maybe before the last of the positive feelings from last weeks dissipates into the sports atmosphere, I should just get started…

THEN:

Cold weather Super Bowl? No problems for Brady.(Winslow Townson/SI)
Cold weather Super Bowl? No problems for Brady.(Winslow Townson/SI)

I was definitely excited to get started on this after last week’s win because I felt that several points I had made in my last few posts had been validated. For one thing, I thought it proved my assertion (along with Peter King) that the Pats should be favored to win a cold weather Super Bowl, perhaps something like the 6 degree windshield factor in Foxboro, and that Tom Brady can still perform at a high level in those conditions. (Also demonstrated that, even with two gloves, Manning can’t…) As they earned their eighth win in eleven games (now nine in twelve), I thought the Pats proved King’s point that they, as led on the field by Tom Brady, are amongst the best at adjusting to the hard realities of injury and player movement. They got solid play from rookie LB Jamie Collins for the first time this year, continued strong play from Rutgers rookie Logan Ryan (who got an INT), ten tackles and a forced fumble by 4th year LB Dane Fletcher in place of Dont’a Hightower and solid line play by Will Svitek, who is their third right tackle of the season.  It also helped to confirm my belief that the Patriots could defeat the Broncos in a shootout. Granted, I did not expect them to first shoot themselves in the foot by giving up 24 unanswered first half points, but still 35-31 qualifies as a shootout win. On the negative side of things, Stevan Ridley‘s continued tendency to cough up the football is becoming very disconcerting, as is their defense’s seeming indifference when it comes to stopping the run. Every time I hear Knowshon Moreno‘s name, all I think is. “He maybe good, but he’s no Shaun Moreno.”

NOW:

Gronk for MVP? He's been an integral part of the Pats' season. (Boston Herald)
Gronk for MVP? He’s been an integral part of the Pats’ season. (Boston Herald)

Although many in Boston media characterized the game against Houston as a “trap game”, few gave the Texans much of a chance to win. There was concern that, after difficult games against Carolina and Denver, that there would be a let down against a 2-9 opponent, and you would have to assume to some degree there was. You also have to be bothered by the return of Brady’s occasionally inconsistent arm, as demonstrated by his first quarter interception, as well as by the healthy scratch of Stevan Ridley. I know that Belichick values ball security above just about everything else, but you have to believe the Patriots are a stronger offensive team with Ridley in the lineup. (Assuming, he holds onto the ball, but you already knew that…) That said, before you leave thinking I’m turning into whatever the male equivalent of a Debbi Downer, there are a couple of real positives to take from all this. Thing one has to be the solid dependability of PK Stephen Gostkowski. His two 53-yard fourth quarter field goals were huge.  Thing two would be that Brady did end up throwing for 371 yards and 2 TDs. Finally, there is the continuing return to form of TE Rob Gronkowski, whose six catches for 127 yards and a TD were a major part of this win. Actually, there are those in the Boston media who are putting Gronk’s name out there for MVP consideration. You know there are stranger ideas. Stay tuned…

Jerry Ballgame

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.

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